Home Featured small Feature: Ben Haydie [Interview + Premiere]

Feature: Ben Haydie [Interview + Premiere]

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Hello Ben, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Thanks for having me! I’m doing great and the last piece of music I have listened to was “I’m into you” by Chet Faker.

How’s your summer been so far? And what are your plans for the coming week?

My summer is going super fine. Since it’s possible to play gigs again I realized how much I have missed that! Not sure about that yet, but probably making music and being late at least once.

You recently performed at the Come Together festival, how was the gig and how does playing a festival differ to playing in a club for you?

It was such a fun and exciting experience, I loved it! I think the main difference is the atmosphere. Clubs can feel a little more intimate than Open Airs or Festivals but being outside and being able to see the sky, clouds or stars while dancing can also definitely affect a mood in a positive way.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a producer and DJ?

My first instrument was the guitar and later I started to sing and played piano too. It didn’t took too long till I started writing music and experimenting with DAWs to record and capture ideas. That was just a first contact, because at that time I wanted to found a band to perform my songs with other musicians. After doing this for a couple of years my band split and I had to find a way to continue playing the songs I wrote. That was the point where I discovered all the possibilities and benefits that the electronic music world has to offer. I was also very inspired about electronic music in general and the opportunity to become something like a one-man-band. That’s also the reason why I see myself more as a Live Act than a DJ.

What music from your youth had the biggest effect on where you are today? Are there certain tracks or albums which profoundly influenced you?

I am still listening to a lot of genres, but in my youth I was super inspired by Rock, Indie and Folk music. One of my all time favorite albums still are “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons or “For Emma, forever ago” by Bon Iver for example. Electronic music came a little later in my life with artists like Moderat, Stimming and Kollektiv Turmstrasse. I also listened to the album “Gorillaz” by Gorillaz in loop when I was a kid.

You’ve currently based in Berlin; did you grow up in Germany as well? And if so how did that shape the music you make and your career path so to speak?

I grew up in Coburg, a small town in the north of Bavaria, Germany. I think the place itself is not so important, but the people around you and maybe the local opportunities to consume music. I think this is one of the main reasons why I moved to berlin. The range of music and cultural events that this city has to offer are amazing and sometimes even overwhelming.

I simply love how this city keeps surprising me, and new influences are also very helpful for staying creative and thinking outside of the box.

Your new album ‘Molecules’ was recently released on Mango Alley; you must be quite excited. Tell us how it began to take shape? Was there an initial goal of writing an album from the beginning or did this happen organically in a way?

I am beyond excited! Writing an album has always been a big dream of mine, so it was just a matter of time and I’m happy I did it. To clear my mind and to have time to start doing this I rented a cabin in the woods for 1,5 weeks to lock myself with my studio gear. I didn’t finished it in this time of course, but I came back home with a lot of sketches and ideas to continue working on. I also recorded lots of sounds inside my cabin to let the place become a main character in the album. There even was a slightly detuned but warm sounding piano in my room that is audible in almost every track. I have just been in a very creative mood, so fulfilling the dream of writing an album felt like the right thing to do at that moment.

It’s a compelling listen from start to finish, quite seductive and diverse overall, there’s an effortless, whimsical quality to it which is definitely ideal for multiple plays and the album’s timeless sensibility is undeniable. Tell us about the inspiration behind this album and why it was important for you to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in this way.

Writing music has always been a perfect way for me to preserve feelings and emotions what helps me reflecting and dealing with them. Most of the time a track tells a story like an episode of your favorite series, but I wanted to write a hole season with different characters that speak for themselves, but at the same time make sense in context to the others.

The main inspiration in my songs is intimacy, vulnerability, nature and human connection, so I tried to tell a more complex and personal story throughout the songs. At the same time I wanted to make the place I was become a part of it, that’s why the first track is called “Arrive” and the last one is called “Leave”. Being in my cabin for 1,5 weeks has been a little journey and I wanted the listener to experience this too through listening to the tracks. The easiest way to do this was letting the place become an instrument, so I recorded a lot of wooden percussions, the before mentioned piano, the squeaky door and even the birds that sang in front of my window every morning.

How did you end up with the final track selection and how did you go about cutting stuff out? There must be a point where it becomes quite difficult letting go of certain pieces?

Luckily it wasn’t that hard. I was able to start an idea every day when I was in the woods, what helped me picking the right fitting tracks already before they were finished. I just had to finish the Tracks where I have seen and felt the most potential, or that were the most important and meaningful to me. One thing I learned during the process of producing is that letting go sometimes opens more doors than it closes. I tried to stay with the flow and rather opened a new project instead of getting stuck in an old one.

Given that this isn’t a straight-forward club album did the majority of the tracks begin around a musical idea rather than something beats or groove oriented? Or is the process the same for you regardless?

It really depends on my mood. Sometimes it can be a little creative boost to have a nice groove or beat to jam on but being more limited with just a piano and your voice can also be a nice way of starting a track. With most of the tracks of the album there was a musical idea first, or some story I wanted to tell. The challenge was to put that in the right shape and not getting overwhelmed by all the possibilities modern music production offers. That’s also why it was clear for me very early to use the piano a lot. For me this an instrument where you can express so many feelings with, so I thought why not using it as another main character in the album? These decisions before starting to write the actual album have been very helpful to stay focused and to find a red line.

There’s a very warm organic feel to the album, from a compositional perspective but also design wise. What are your go to tools in the studio and what featured heavily on this album?

My favorite tool is obviously the piano, I just love the aesthetic and the sound of it. It’s very pure, poetic and simply an instrument I am comfortable playing with. Besides this my Moog Matriarch has also been an important instrument because you can create so many interesting textures and sounds with it, what made it the mainly used Synthesizer of the album. It was also a lot of fun experimenting with my own voice to create shots, pads and ear candy. Sending my voice through effect chains can also be a nice way of creating new and never heard sounds.

How much of an effect do other genres of music outside of the electronic realm have on your own productions? And in particular the album.

Quite a lot. I think especially in electronic music one of the biggest challenges is that musicians tend to just repeat patterns that worked in past productions. It is helping me a lot to listen to other stuff and try to mix these different influences in my music. Luckily there are almost endless possibilities on a four to the floor groove that give me freedom to experiment a lot.

I would guess the writing of the album was a long process, now that it’s done and out what are your thoughts reflecting back on the process?

I learned a lot about myself during the process, because when you are writing a track about some personal stuff that happened in your life you have to reflect it differently and have to see it from several perspectives to be able to tell a story in depth. And starting a big project like this and finishing it feels also very satisfying and makes me very proud too!

I would guess the writing of the album was a long process, now that it’s done and out what are your thoughts reflecting back on the process?

I learned a lot about myself during the process, because when you are writing a track about some personal stuff that happened in your life you have to reflect it differently and have to see it from several perspectives to be able to tell a story in depth. And starting a big project like this and finishing it feels also very satisfying and makes me very proud too!

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed? And are there plans for this?

Besides the main album a remix album will come out in two parts. I am super happy to have amazing artist on board and there are some versions and interpretations from tracks of mine that really blew my mind! It’s always so interesting and exciting to see what others create out of your stuff. It really gives the hole project a lot of diversity and covers a big range of musical tastes I think.

Why did Mango Alley feel like the right home for the album?

I had a good feeling from the first moment with Mango Alley! They have been really supportive and gave me the freedom to decide the artwork and the way it will be released by myself, what was really important for me. I think we had a very similar vision of how it would look, sound and be the best, so working together with them was pleasure!

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should? Is this something that perhaps depends on who (record label) is releasing it as well?

In times of endless streaming possibilities it definitely changed a lot! Listening to a hole album in a row even feels a little old-fashioned nowadays, but in these faster getting world they might are more important than ever. An album is not something you consume in a couple of minutes, it is something you should reflect and think about and try to understand what the intention, the message or the emotion of the artist was. You are not working on something for months, sometimes years and not want to say something with it. I wish that more artist would focus on quality instead of quantity, but unfortunately this is not a very clever way from an economical perspective, but it’s giving your art more weight. I truly believe that honest music will find its way, but having a label that got your back is of course very helpful. They just know how the game works and can help artists with things they shouldn’t care about to much.

Will there be specific tour dates in support of the album release?

Yes, August and September are already pretty full with Club and Festival gigs, but there are more that will be announced soon. Being on stage again feels amazing and really missed that the past two years. Also bringing a new Live Set on stage took a long time to prepare, so it feels great to share this with the people. Just check my Instagram to stay updated!

What’s the task you enjoy the most when producing and what is something you’d rather have taken care of by somebody else?

The Austrian singer Falco once said that an album is like giving birth to a baby and that the most fun part is the moment of creating and not the day of releasing it 9 months later.

I can a 100% relate to that! The excitement when starting to work on a new idea is always magical. It always feels like it’s the best track you ever did (what isn’t true most of the time) and this keeps my motivation on a high level.

I think a lot of people can relate when I say that mixing can be the most frustrating thing in music production, but since I found the right tools even this makes fun sometimes.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I think music never hurts (except you turn up the volume to much, haha), it just can trigger emotions you have felt before. We are all having ups and downs in life and sometimes when listening to a sad song it feels like someone is understanding our feelings and emotions. It’s like a best friend that simply tells you sometimes that you are not alone. This also works the other way: When I write a song about something that made me struggle and somebody relates to it, I also feel like the person understands me. One of the biggest mistakes I did for quite a long time is not talking that much about things I struggled with, so music was always a communicational tool for me as well. I am also working in a children’s home as a music therapist where I teach children and teenager music instruments and help them expressing their emotions through music. It’s even medical proven that music has a lot of positive benefits to body and mind. And who of us doesn’t have a song in mind that lifts you up already by hearing the first note? It’s some kind of magic.

What would be a musical extravagance for your studio you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?

Don’t even have to think a second: an original Fender Rhodes Mark I! I just love the sound of it and its design is also timeless. I played one again some weeks ago at the Korg Studios in Berlin and they had to carry me out of the studio, I could have spend days in there playing around with it! Beautiful piece of gear.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

That’s a tough one, there are so many great artists! I think I would start with a soothing Nils Frahm performance, then a smooth Polaroit Live Set, moving on with Kiasmos, continuing with Stimmings more groovy style, before Ame finishes it!

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

I have three movies in mind that influenced me a lot: the original Star Wars Trilogy. Since I was little I was always fascinated about space, maybe that’s why I am having my own spaceship in form of a music studio now.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Meeting and having a drink with friends, being in nature or hiking and cooking something fancy!

What does the remainder of 2022 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

Soon there will come out some collaborations with other artists and at the end of the year already the next solo EP, but first of all after the album release, I will have a well deserved break to recharge my batteries. Thanks for having me!

Ben Haydie ‘Molecules’ is OUT NOW via Mango Alley!

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